Linda Baten Johnson on Critique Partners

Hey everyone! Today, I want to welcome Linda Baten Johnson for a guest post. She’s written about something quite close to my heart: critique partners.

Take it away, Linda!

In praise of critique partners

One of the topics Misha suggested was how to improve our writing. For me, that has been to join a critique group, a small number of writers who work together to improve by sharing tips, books, website postings, and reviewing each member’s work. Critique partners provide structure, accountability, discipline, and an opportunity to learn from reviewing the work of others and being reviewed prior to publication.

A critique group may meet in person or online. They may all write in the same genre, but that is not necessary. You may find critique partners in your neighborhood writing group, a book club, through your local library, or a national organization of writers in your genre. When forming a group, start with trial sessions and get a feel for the personalities, and the writing style of prospective members. If you think you could benefit each other, you’ll want to define the parameters–number of members, frequency of meetings, number of pages submitted for each session, and expectations. Some groups bring their work to the meeting and read aloud. My preference is having a copy in advance so I can read the submission more than once and then do track changes for my partner.

A critique session is not a criticizing session, but an evaluating session. Members should note the good things about the writing as well as how the selection could be improved. A flowery “this is wonderful” doesn’t help either the writer or the reader. Study the piece and tell exactly what makes it appealing, and if you have trouble seeing a scene or it doesn’t make sense to you, encourage the author to give more details.

The person being critiqued should listen, not explain or defend. The reader, your critique partner, doesn’t see what you meant to write, he only sees what you wrote.  Finding good critique partners is difficult. We all think we want to be in a group with more experienced writers in order to learn from their expertise, but some of the best critiques often come from a beginning writer. A person new to critiquing looks at the basic storyline, the characters, and descriptions, where more experienced writers may be caught up in the specifics of grammar or structure.

I’ve been in several critique groups and I know that not all work. Some fail because of personal chemistry, different goals, or lack of commitment, but finding the right group is worth the effort. My critique partners have become dear friends who encourage me when I’m down, chastise me when I’m lazy, and cheer for me when I pass a milestone in my dream to become a better writer, and I try to do the same for them.

I hope you’ll find the perfect group for you, and that both your writing and the writing of the other members of your group will improve.

About Linda Baten Johnson

Linda Baten Johnson credits her critique group with getting her books ready for publication. With their help, she writes historical fiction for young readers and squeaky clean romances.
Linda and her husband live in Texas, but they love to travel and have visited all fifty states and twenty foreign countries. They love the national parks and have volunteered to work at some of them. A couple of years ago, they volunteered at a lighthouse in Michigan and lived in the assistant keeper’s cottage. Of course, the experience generated a book, Mystery at Desolation Point.
Please visit Linda’s website at www.lindabatenjohnson.com.
A magnolia means stability and grace through changing times, and times were certainly changing in Louisiana after the Civil War.
Energetic, hard-working Martha Bodine and her mother survive the war, but Captain Bodine does not return from the Confederate Army when expected, and the women must pay the back taxes or lose the family farm. A neighbor is eager to join his land with the Bodine property by marrying Martha, a solution which does not appeal to the young woman. In a desperate attempt to get the needed funds, the women rent a room to a controversial Northern gentleman, but this decision causes a rift between them and their neighbors.
Peyton Anderson, a soldier from the same unit as Martha’s papa, pays a visit to the farm on his way to join his family in Texas. He identifies their home by his officer’s description of the large magnolia tree in the front yard. Sympathetic to their dismal circumstances, he offers to help the feisty Martha and her gentle mother. Determined to honor his obligations, Peyton fears that even his best efforts may not change the course mapped out for Martha’s life or his own.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Do you still use critique partners? How/where do you find yours? 

Linda Baten Johnson on Critique Partners

Hey everyone! Today, I want to welcome Linda Baten Johnson for a guest post. She’s written about something quite close to my heart: critique partners.

Take it away, Linda!

In praise of critique partners

One of the topics Misha suggested was how to improve our writing. For me, that has been to join a critique group, a small number of writers who work together to improve by sharing tips, books, website postings, and reviewing each member’s work. Critique partners provide structure, accountability, discipline, and an opportunity to learn from reviewing the work of others and being reviewed prior to publication.

A critique group may meet in person or online. They may all write in the same genre, but that is not necessary. You may find critique partners in your neighborhood writing group, a book club, through your local library, or a national organization of writers in your genre. When forming a group, start with trial sessions and get a feel for the personalities, and the writing style of prospective members. If you think you could benefit each other, you’ll want to define the parameters–number of members, frequency of meetings, number of pages submitted for each session, and expectations. Some groups bring their work to the meeting and read aloud. My preference is having a copy in advance so I can read the submission more than once and then do track changes for my partner.

A critique session is not a criticizing session, but an evaluating session. Members should note the good things about the writing as well as how the selection could be improved. A flowery “this is wonderful” doesn’t help either the writer or the reader. Study the piece and tell exactly what makes it appealing, and if you have trouble seeing a scene or it doesn’t make sense to you, encourage the author to give more details.

The person being critiqued should listen, not explain or defend. The reader, your critique partner, doesn’t see what you meant to write, he only sees what you wrote.  Finding good critique partners is difficult. We all think we want to be in a group with more experienced writers in order to learn from their expertise, but some of the best critiques often come from a beginning writer. A person new to critiquing looks at the basic storyline, the characters, and descriptions, where more experienced writers may be caught up in the specifics of grammar or structure.

 I’ve been in several critique groups and I know that not all work. Some fail because of personal chemistry, different goals, or lack of commitment, but finding the right group is worth the effort. My critique partners have become dear friends who encourage me when I’m down, chastise me when I’m lazy, and cheer for me when I pass a milestone in my dream to become a better writer, and I try to do the same for them.

I hope you’ll find the perfect group for you, and that both your writing and the writing of the other members of your group will improve.

About Linda Baten Johnson

Linda Baten Johnson credits her critique group with getting her books ready for publication. With their help, she writes historical fiction for young readers and squeaky clean romances.
Linda and her husband live in Texas, but they love to travel and have visited all fifty states and twenty foreign countries. They love the national parks and have volunteered to work at some of them. A couple of years ago, they volunteered at a lighthouse in Michigan and lived in the assistant keeper’s cottage. Of course, the experience generated a book, Mystery at Desolation Point.
Please visit Linda’s website at www.lindabatenjohnson.com.
A magnolia means stability and grace through changing times, and times were certainly changing in Louisiana after the Civil War.
Energetic, hard-working Martha Bodine and her mother survive the war, but Captain Bodine does not return from the Confederate Army when expected, and the women must pay the back taxes or lose the family farm. A neighbor is eager to join his land with the Bodine property by marrying Martha, a solution which does not appeal to the young woman. In a desperate attempt to get the needed funds, the women rent a room to a controversial Northern gentleman, but this decision causes a rift between them and their neighbors.
Peyton Anderson, a soldier from the same unit as Martha’s papa, pays a visit to the farm on his way to join his family in Texas. He identifies their home by his officer’s description of the large magnolia tree in the front yard. Sympathetic to their dismal circumstances, he offers to help the feisty Martha and her gentle mother. Determined to honor his obligations, Peyton fears that even his best efforts may not change the course mapped out for Martha’s life or his own. 
Thanks for reading, everyone! Do you still use critique partners? How/where do you find yours? 

Up-boo! Day

Today is the last Friday of October, which means it’s time for another Update Day. In case you’re wondering what it is: Beth Fred and I host a blog hop, where we set crazy or crazy important goals. The idea is for everyone to chase down their goals, and on the last Friday of each month, we share updates on our progress.

You’re welcome to join at any time, so if you’d like to sign up, or to see who else is taking part, please click here.

I have to admit, it’s currently 9:30 p.m, so I’m cutting it close with my own blog hop. In fact, I almost considered cutting it even closer, because I have a deadline looming (more on that in a few), but I needed a break. So I thought: what better way is there to relax than to do a post mortem on the past month?

Huh?

Huh?!

Oh okay fine. I’ll just get to it.

In cased you missed last month’s post, I’ve hit reset on my 5-year goal and I decided to take this being-a-writer thing full-time.
To make that happen, I’m setting monthly writing goals, along with writing business goals. The former deals with my activities in producing more stories. The latter deals mostly with marketing, and my ability to earn revenues from writing, and writing related activities. Just to clarify, if the money I earn relates in any way to me using my writing skills or knowledge, I’m counting it as revenues for my writing business.
So, if I were to monetize this blog (which I won’t do) and this blog generated an income, it’d show up in my analyses. But if I win the lottery, or suddenly become a millionaire doing something else… Nope.
Basically, this whole exercise is to see exactly how hard or how easy it is to start almost from scratch and become a full-time writer. So I started last September with a budget of $10, and started working.
Every month, then, I set a goal for Writing and a goal for Generated Revenue. 
 

So how did I do in October? 

Before I show the graphs, I should point out one thing: If I had to give October one theme, I would call it The Agony and the Ecstasy. 
 
Especially the week I just had. Life and other work (yeah, remember how I said I’m still doing other work too because it gives me so much time? BAHAHAHAHAHA *sob*) just went into full-blown hell mode.
In fact, when I wrote my friend Connie about it, I couldn’t even put a word to it. A day later, and it’s finally occurred to me:
Shell-shock
I’m not even kidding. This was a week I will not want to experience ever again. I’ll get around to talking about it, as soon as I’ve really recovered.
It’s not all bad, though. This same hell-week also turned out to have something really good in it too. (And that doesn’t count the fact that I’ve finally tasted (and fell in love with (even more passionately than I adore parentheses)) macaroons.) In fact, this exact same hell-week was nothing short of miraculous. (Again, more on this when I’ve recovered.)
In short, the overall results of October were mixed.

Writing

One of my major writing goals I have at the moment is to finish Book 3 of The War of Six Crowns before the end of this year.
Basically, doing so means I have to write about 50,000 words every month, including October.
Did I manage it?
No.
In fact, I’ve managed a slight bit under half of what I wanted to do. In my defense, pretty much every one of those plateaus coincided with some crappiness from the rest of my life spilling into my writing time.
And sadly, most of the words added here were courtesy of my Insecure Writers’ Support Group short story, but I did submit that, so that was one writing goal achieved.
As for my third writing goal (reformatting my books for updates to the content and covers), I’ve so far managed to start on The Vanished Knight. It’s basically done, but I want to do yet another proofread. Not because I think I’ll find anything, but I’ve found that Word does funny things to documents, changing formatting without permission, making words and phrases vanish… That sort of thing. Call me paranoid, but I’d rather be sure everything is where it should be.
If you’re wondering, if the hell-week is over, why I haven’t started writing… I have a very good reason. More on this on a bit.
Goals for November: 
1) NANOWRIMO! Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’ll be rebelling and trying to add 50k words to Book 3. In case you want to buddy up with me, my username on the NaNoWriMo website is iceangel.
2) Published books. I have a lot to do here:
2.1) Take my paperbacks out of Amazon’s expanded distribution, so I can prepare to publish them directly through Ingram Spark.
2.2) Finish formatting and proofreading all three of my books so I can do the updates I want to do.
2.3) Plan something around the reveal of the updated covers.
3) Post Ryan on Patreon. Ryan is a short-story from the same world as Endless. I want to share it with my patrons, and had planned to start this month already, but I just couldn’t get to it.

Generated Revenue

Every month, I’m setting a monthly revenue target. Then, I’m counting all of the month’s revenue, which means I count revenue the moment it’s generated (which I usually call future income or income generated in the month) and money that were actually generated in previous months.
So, if I sell a book on Amazon and I get $5 in royalties, it will only really be in my account later. So, in order to show people where my income is coming from, I’ll show the money in the month I first earned it, and then again once it’s in my account. (It’s all just to make the graphs make sense. I actually studied accounting and am aware that this is not how normal people count money. But I’m not normal.)
Also, I have a few rules I’ve set for myself:
The first one is: I set the target, and the target doesn’t move until after I’ve reached it once.
The second one is: The target for current and future generated income is equal to the monthly target minus accrued income. (So if I set a goal of $10 and that $5 royalty is paid into my account, I have $5 left to generate for this month, or for future months.)
The third one is: If I hit the target, I have to raise the bar.
And… well… I’m going to have to raise the bar quite a bit.
See, in September, I set a $100 target for the month, and then came in under. But this month… this month I annihilated it.
That’s right. I generated more than double my target revenue. In fact, I hit the $100 goal on the 14th. Which was part of the reason why I haven’t been able to write today. Because I’m getting this income from Upwork, and I still have a deadline.
On the positive side, I made enough to get Upwork to pay money into my Payoneer account, which also means I’ll be able to withdraw my money. Which means I can pay for Photoshop etc.
Goals for November
1) Boost book sales. Don’t get me wrong. I really like when my target graphs look like this, but honestly, I need to see more book sales. Amazon was completely dead this month (except when they paid out a few royalties.) And really, my overall goal is to get my written works to pay my way, so I really need to make that bar graph a bit more colorful. Mainly, though, I know I didn’t enough to get sales this month. I did more in September, to obvious results.
2) Hit my next revenue target. Deciding on the target is a bit tricky, because most of the money I made on Upwork this month will be accrued income in November. So, if I set a $200 goal, it will basically only be $100 to go after. Instead, I’m lifting the goal to $300.
That’s it from me. How did your October go? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Up-boo! Day

Today is the last Friday of October, which means it’s time for another Update Day. In case you’re wondering what it is: Beth Fred and I host a blog hop, where we set crazy or crazy important goals. The idea is for everyone to chase down their goals, and on the last Friday of each month, we share updates on our progress.

You’re welcome to join at any time, so if you’d like to sign up, or to see who else is taking part, please click here.

I have to admit, it’s currently 9:30 p.m, so I’m cutting it close with my own blog hop. In fact, I almost considered cutting it even closer, because I have a deadline looming (more on that in a few), but I needed a break. So I thought: what better way is there to relax than to do a post mortem on the past month?

Huh?

Huh?!

Oh okay fine. I’ll just get to it.

In cased you missed last month’s post, I’ve hit reset on my 5-year goal and I decided to take this being-a-writer thing full-time. 
To make that happen, I’m setting monthly writing goals, along with writing business goals. The former deals with my activities in producing more stories. The latter deals mostly with marketing, and my ability to earn revenues from writing, and writing related activities. Just to clarify, if the money I earn relates in any way to me using my writing skills or knowledge, I’m counting it as revenues for my writing business. 
So, if I were to monetize this blog (which I won’t do) and this blog generated an income, it’d show up in my analyses. But if I win the lottery, or suddenly become a millionaire doing something else… Nope. 
Basically, this whole exercise is to see exactly how hard or how easy it is to start almost from scratch and become a full-time writer. So I started last September with a budget of $10, and started working. 
Every month, then, I set a goal for Writing and a goal for Generated Revenue. 

So how did I do in October? 

Before I show the graphs, I should point out one thing: If I had to give October one theme, I would call it The Agony and the Ecstasy. 

Especially the week I just had. Life and other work (yeah, remember how I said I’m still doing other work too because it gives me so much time? BAHAHAHAHAHA *sob*) just went into full-blown hell mode. 
In fact, when I wrote my friend Connie about it, I couldn’t even put a word to it. A day later, and it’s finally occurred to me: 
Shell-shock
I’m not even kidding. This was a week I will not want to experience ever again. I’ll get around to talking about it, as soon as I’ve really recovered. 
It’s not all bad, though. This same hell-week also turned out to have something really good in it too. (And that doesn’t count the fact that I’ve finally tasted (and fell in love with (even more passionately than I adore parentheses)) macaroons.) In fact, this exact same hell-week was nothing short of miraculous. (Again, more on this when I’ve recovered.) 
In short, the overall results of October were mixed. 

Writing

One of my major writing goals I have at the moment is to finish Book 3 of The War of Six Crowns before the end of this year. 
Basically, doing so means I have to write about 50,000 words every month, including October. 
Did I manage it? 
No. 
In fact, I’ve managed a slight bit under half of what I wanted to do. In my defense, pretty much every one of those plateaus coincided with some crappiness from the rest of my life spilling into my writing time. 
And sadly, most of the words added here were courtesy of my Insecure Writers’ Support Group short story, but I did submit that, so that was one writing goal achieved.
As for my third writing goal (reformatting my books for updates to the content and covers), I’ve so far managed to start on The Vanished Knight. It’s basically done, but I want to do yet another proofread. Not because I think I’ll find anything, but I’ve found that Word does funny things to documents, changing formatting without permission, making words and phrases vanish… That sort of thing. Call me paranoid, but I’d rather be sure everything is where it should be. 
If you’re wondering, if the hell-week is over, why I haven’t started writing… I have a very good reason. More on this on a bit.
Goals for November: 
1) NANOWRIMO! Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’ll be rebelling and trying to add 50k words to Book 3. In case you want to buddy up with me, my username on the NaNoWriMo website is iceangel. 
2) Published books. I have a lot to do here: 
2.1) Take my paperbacks out of Amazon’s expanded distribution, so I can prepare to publish them directly through Ingram Spark. 
2.2) Finish formatting and proofreading all three of my books so I can do the updates I want to do. 
2.3) Plan something around the reveal of the updated covers. 
3) Post Ryan on Patreon. Ryan is a short-story from the same world as Endless. I want to share it with my patrons, and had planned to start this month already, but I just couldn’t get to it. 

Generated Revenue

Every month, I’m setting a monthly revenue target. Then, I’m counting all of the month’s revenue, which means I count revenue the moment it’s generated (which I usually call future income or income generated in the month) and money that were actually generated in previous months. 
So, if I sell a book on Amazon and I get $5 in royalties, it will only really be in my account later. So, in order to show people where my income is coming from, I’ll show the money in the month I first earned it, and then again once it’s in my account. (It’s all just to make the graphs make sense. I actually studied accounting and am aware that this is not how normal people count money. But I’m not normal.) 
Also, I have a few rules I’ve set for myself: 
The first one is: I set the target, and the target doesn’t move until after I’ve reached it once. 
The second one is: The target for current and future generated income is equal to the monthly target minus accrued income. (So if I set a goal of $10 and that $5 royalty is paid into my account, I have $5 left to generate for this month, or for future months.) 
The third one is: If I hit the target, I have to raise the bar. 
And… well… I’m going to have to raise the bar quite a bit. 
See, in September, I set a $100 target for the month, and then came in under. But this month… this month I annihilated it.
That’s right. I generated more than double my target revenue. In fact, I hit the $100 goal on the 14th. Which was part of the reason why I haven’t been able to write today. Because I’m getting this income from Upwork, and I still have a deadline. 
On the positive side, I made enough to get Upwork to pay money into my Payoneer account, which also means I’ll be able to withdraw my money. Which means I can pay for Photoshop etc. 
Goals for November
1) Boost book sales. Don’t get me wrong. I really like when my target graphs look like this, but honestly, I need to see more book sales. Amazon was completely dead this month (except when they paid out a few royalties.) And really, my overall goal is to get my written works to pay my way, so I really need to make that bar graph a bit more colorful. Mainly, though, I know I didn’t enough to get sales this month. I did more in September, to obvious results. 
2) Hit my next revenue target. Deciding on the target is a bit tricky, because most of the money I made on Upwork this month will be accrued income in November. So, if I set a $200 goal, it will basically only be $100 to go after. Instead, I’m lifting the goal to $300. 
That’s it from me. How did your October go? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Sorry for being so quiet!

This week was a rough one.

Mostly, a lot of developments in my business-life (as supposed to writing-life or… well. life-life) meant that I had zero time for any writing or even social networking.

I’m not complaining. Any movement in the business is good, so I rather spend more time a day and get things dealt with than drag things out. Now we’re basically back to the waiting part, which means I should have more time to write.

I have sooooo much writing to do, though. It’s kinda starting to give me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s not a guilt thing. It’s a stress thing. If I’m in stressful situations, writing helps me blow of steam, but when I’m too tired to write… I don’t, and the stress keeps building.

You’d think that would mean the words just come rushing out as soon as I sit down, but you’d be wrong.

Cause the more stress builds, the harder it becomes for me to find my words. Which adds to my stress, which makes writing more difficult, which adds to my stress.

Yeah.

Not fun.

And I’d like to say I’ll write this weekend, but I’m days behind on my editing goals as well. So now I don’t know what I should do first.

I’ll just have to figure it out over the weekend.

How are you doing? 

Sorry for being so quiet!

This week was a rough one.

Mostly, a lot of developments in my business-life (as supposed to writing-life or… well. life-life) meant that I had zero time for any writing or even social networking.

I’m not complaining. Any movement in the business is good, so I rather spend more time a day and get things dealt with than drag things out. Now we’re basically back to the waiting part, which means I should have more time to write.

I have sooooo much writing to do, though. It’s kinda starting to give me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s not a guilt thing. It’s a stress thing. If I’m in stressful situations, writing helps me blow of steam, but when I’m too tired to write… I don’t, and the stress keeps building.

You’d think that would mean the words just come rushing out as soon as I sit down, but you’d be wrong.

Cause the more stress builds, the harder it becomes for me to find my words. Which adds to my stress, which makes writing more difficult, which adds to my stress.

Yeah.

Not fun.

And I’d like to say I’ll write this weekend, but I’m days behind on my editing goals as well. So now I don’t know what I should do first.

I’ll just have to figure it out over the weekend.

How are you doing? 

My Short Story is Now with CPs.

I’m happy to say I managed to finish writing my IWSG short story in time to send it to the awesome people who’d volunteered to give it a read-over.

Most of them already sent back feedback. (I mean seriously. How’s that for speed?)

So now, I’m planning to sit down and do the critiques I owe them.

I have to say, though, I love my story. The character has been sticking in my head ever since I edited The Heir’s Choice, so I was happy to get a chance to write something for her. Fingers crossed that the judges also enjoy the story.

How are you doing? Sending in a short story for the IWSG competition too?